Having read and enjoyed Niamh’s first novel, The Herbalist I was thrilled to receive an advance copy of HER KIND. (Thanks Penguin Ireland). This novel is set in Kilkennie in 1324 and inspired by the true story of Alice Kytler. This is a brilliant re-imaging of the events leading up to the witch trials of that year.
In 1324, Richard Ledrede, bishop of Ossory, declared that his diocese was a hotbed of devil worshippers. The central figure in this affair was Alice Kyteler, a wealthy Kilkenny woman who stood accused of witchcraft by her stepchildren. Dame Alice Kyteler was the first recorded person condemned for witchcraft in Ireland. She fled the country, but her servant Petronilla de Meath was flogged and burned to death at the stake on 3 November 1324. It was the first witchcraft trial to treat the accused as heretics and the first to accuse a woman of having acquired the power of sorcery through sexual intercourse with a demon. It is against these facts that Niamh has written her novel.
The story moves along at a pace and reveals a dark and bleak period in Irish history. At times it reads like a thriller as we follow Alice, who provides refuge for her friend and daughter. She gives her friend a new name to disguise them: Petronelle. She has also secured her a job as a servant and sets out to hide their connection. Before long Petronelle realises that all is not good in the household and she decides to escape with her daughter but this time she encounters an even greater threat.
I like the character or Petronelle, although I did think she made some dubious decisions at time but overall, she was a strong well drawn out character and it is great to read an historical novel told from the female perspective. A hugely enjoyable, historical novel that moves along at a pace. Well worth reading for any lovers of historical fiction, witch trials and readers who generally like a good story well told.